Top-of-the-table clash could be decisive for Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship

By Jonno Ross

A huge opportunity has opened up for Lotto NRFL Men’s Championship leaders East Coast Bays with the postponement of the game between Hibiscus Coast and Tauranga City.

With the teams in third and fourth spots not playing, leaders East Coast Bays can slip seven points clear of the chasing bunch if they can win on the road at second-placed Ngaruawahia United.

But that’s a big ‘if’.

Meanwhile, the remaining fixtures will help sort out the lower half order of the competition.

Game of the week

Ngaruawahia United are in red hot form and showing no signs of letting up soon.

They’ve won their last seven league and cup games on the trot, more often than not blitzing their opposition, with 25 goals in that winning run.

Now, they face their biggest test of the league schedule — a clash with high-flying East Coast Bays.

It has the potential to be the game of the season and is sure to influence the title and end-of-season promotion race.

East Coast Bays have performed when it matters this season.

A 3-1 win against promotion rivals Hibiscus Coast was crucial last time out, and they beat Ngaruawahia 3-1 in the season opener at Bay City Park.

Historically, 42-50 points have been enough to win the league and/or promotion, and East Coast Bays are well on their way, with 27 points … an average of 2.4 points per game so far.

One factor works in Ngaruawahia’s favour, though. Of their 14 league and cup fixtures this year, only five have been at home.

Now they get to play seven of their remaining 11 at Centennial Park and the home advantage should give them an edge.

Ngaruawahia United’s Reuben Henderson has found the net seven times this season. Photo: Andrew Skinner / Phototek.

Players to watch

This competition is producing some prolific goalscorers and four of them go head-to-head this weekend when Ngaruawahia United host leaders East Coast Bays.

Just watch to see who grabs the goals in this top-of-the-table affair that features:

  • Stjepan Kovacic, Ngaruawahia, 9 goals
  • Nicolai Berry, East Coast Bays, 7 goals
  • Reuben Henderson, Ngaruawahia, 7 goals
  • Dylan Stansfield, East Coast Bays, 7 goals

Bold prediction

I predict Mount Albert Ponsonby will break their seven-game streak without a win (in the league and Chatham Cup) and see off North Shore United with a 3-1 win.

Last time out, I predicted Waiheke United to get their first win of the season against Northern Rovers. Rovers squeaked a 1-0 win thanks to an early goal in the 7th minute from Rory Turner.


Games to be played on Saturday June 24, 2023

Hibiscus Coast v Tauranga City
*Postponed due to Tauranga’s commitments in Chatham Cup

Metro v Fencibles United
Phyllis St, Mt Albert, 3pm

Mount Albert Ponsonby v North Shore United
Anderson Park, Mt Albert, 3pm

Ngaruawahia United v East Coast Bays
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia, 3pm

Onehunga Mangere United v Northern Rovers
Mangere Domain, Mangere, 3pm

Waiheke United v Ellerslie
Onetangi Sports Complex 2, Waiheke, 3pm

Jonno Ross

Friends of Football writer Jonno Ross is a media writer for the NZ Football Foundation. A former New Zealand U-20 goalkeeper, he is the team manager for Mount Albert Ponsonby. He supports the All Whites, the Football Ferns, the Wellington Phoenix and Arsenal.

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